LuxuryMuskoka’s Bryan Dearsley pays tribute to cottage country’s most intimate music venue… Peter’s Players
Gravenhurst Ontario has a reputation for the quality of its music venues. Not just among concertgoers, but among musicians, too.
For example, at the inaugural Sawdust City Muskoka Festival held here in 2017 – an event that has since been rebranded as the Muskoka Music Festival – the audience, including this writer, felt a flush of pride as Jim Cuddy of Blue Rodeo fame expressed his awe at the quality of the acoustics in the historic Gravenhurst Opera House. They are, he professed, among the best he’s ever played in.
The same has been said countless times of the town’s other top music venue, Peter’s Players. Established by concert promoter Peter Swanek and his wife, Michelle, in 2008, this intimate venue’s stage has been graced by many Canadian and international performers, including the great Cuddy. In addition to its quality acoustics, the opportunity for artists to let their hair down and have fun through audience interaction is another reason Peter’s Players has become a ‘must-play’ stop on the concert circuit.
In addition to Cuddy, who has played the venue multiple times, a review of the names of past acts who’ve graced the Peter’s Players stage is like reading a who’s-who of Canadian rock, pop, and folk history. The Cowboy Junkies, Marc Jordan, Heather Rankin, Ian Thomas, Ron Sexsmith, Amy Sky, Royal Wood, Jesse Cook, Ashley MacIssac, Colin James, Alfie Zappacosta, and Kiefer Sutherland (yes, the Kiefer Sutherland) have all stopped here to share their music – along with anecdotes – with engaged audiences of just 115 people.
The list of international legends from the world of blues, jazz, rock, and pop is equally long, with notables including The Strawbs, Lulu, and Carole Pope. There’s also been no shortage of great tribute acts, too. Highlights over the past 12 years include performers covering such iconic musicians as Elton John, Sly & The Family Stone, Bob Seger, Steely Dan, Elvis Presley, Chicago, Pink Floyd, Van Morrison, Joe Cocker, The Eagles, The Guess Who, Led Zeppelin, Tina Turner, Stevie Wonder, Jimi Hendrix… well, you get the picture.
From Humble Garage to Peter’s Players
What makes this success story all the more remarkable is the fact that Swanek started things off in a former mechanic’s garage, developing connections in the music industry to ensure an international line-up of stars got things off to a flying start.
That first concert in April, 2008, saw such iconic musicians as Omar and the Howlers, John Mayall, James Cotton, and Johnny Winter take to the stage. The rest, as they say, is history.
Now regarded as one of the top things to do in Muskoka, a night at Peter’s Players is an equally unforgettable experience for the audience. Featuring comfortable tiered seating (complete with cushions and backrests), the overall impression is more living room or home theatre than concert hall. It’s an ambience that’s enhanced by the cozy décor and lighting, the small bar, the friendly staff and, perhaps most importantly, the proximity of the stage – you can, if you’re in the front row, literally reach out and shake the hand of the performers, or even engage in friendly chat during the intermission or post-show.
Past (and Future) Events & Concerts
The roster of artists who’ve performed at Peter’s Player just keeps getting longer. Upcoming performances for 2020 include the following must-see acts:
- Hotel California recreate the legendary sound of The Eagles, something they’ve been doing around the world since 1986
- Gowan, the legend behind hits including When There’s Time (For Love) and many others
- Pink Floyd fans won’t want to miss Classic Albums Live – Pink Floyd The Wall note-for-note
- Matt Schofield turns up the heat with his incredible guitar playing, proving he’s the UK’s greatest contemporary guitarist
- It’s the turn of Australian blues legend Lloyd Spiegel here to showcase his virtuoso musical prowess
- Matt Weidinger presents the music of Irish icon Van Morrison (and his incredible rock and soul inspired vocals)
- Don’t miss the chance to enjoy a fun-filled Dinner Cruiseon Lake Muskoka, including Elevation (U2 tribute show), the Artur Menezes Band (Brazilian blues)… and great views. Additional cruises are planned featuring Abbamania, plus Tom Jones and Rod Stewart tributes
- The legendary Neil Young’uns pat homage to the greatest of Canadian talents… Neil Young
- Martin Barre and original Jethro Tull band members Dee Palmer and Clive Bunker spend the evening telling tales and playing music about one of the UK’s greatest exports
Tickets for most performances sell-out in advance, so be sure to book early. To help regulars avoid disappointment, a unique membership package – Peter’s Patrons Club – has been developed that allows members a variety of perks, including the unique opportunity to influence future performance bookings.
Muskoka Lakes Music Cruise
In addition to the shows held at the concert hall location on Muskoka Road South, Peter’s Players hosts a variety of fun events off-site. One of the most popular are the four-hour long Muskoka Lakes music cruises aboard the Wenonah II, a modern-day remake of one of the first steamships to sale the Muskoka Lakes.
Sailing from the ship’s base on the Muskoka Wharf on Lake Muskoka, these fun cruises include live music by bands such as The Traveling Milburys, a tribute band performing the hits of The Traveling Wilburys. Spring and summer cruises are available, and include buffet dinner.
Another exciting opportunity for music fans to indulge themselves takes place over the winter… and in the Caribbean. The Annual Peter’s Players Jamaica Winterfest takes place in this tropical paradise each January at SeaGarden all-inclusive resort in Montego Bay. In addition to fun in the sun activities, each evening of your stay will see performances by acts including Matt Andersen, Paul Nelson & the All-Star Band, Ana Popovic, and Peter Rivera.
Let’s Spend the Night Together – The Inn @ Peter’s Players
For a truly memorable Peter’s Players experience, the venue has added an accommodations option. The Inn @ Peter’s Players is located at the front of the property, and offers easy access to the venue, as well as dedicated parking. Five uniquely decorated and themed rooms and suites are available, ranging in size from the spacious 215 sq ft Rhythm Section to the cozy 182 sq ft Support Act suites. In addition to a great breakfast, guests also have access to a comfortable seating area and a full-kitchen.
Whatever your reason for visiting Gravenhurst and the Muskoka region – whether you’re passing through, vacationing, already live here, or are contemplating a move and are in the area looking for exciting Muskoka real estate opportunities – be sure to include Peter’s Players on your ‘must-do’ list. To learn more about the venue’s unique music experiences, visit their website at www.petersplayers.com.
Bryan Dearsley is Editor-in-chief of Riley International Media. Learn more at https://rileymag.com.